Loose sugar

Brenda Hillman

Book - 1997

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Wesleyan poetry
Hanover, NH : Wesleyan University Press, published by University Press of New England c1997.
Physical Description
ix, 115 p. ; 24 cm
Main Author
Brenda Hillman (-)
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This energetic collection is very different from Hillman's recent collections, Death Tractates (1992) and its companion volume Bright Existence. That pair took a somber, reflective tone in dealing with a close friend's death and Hillman's attempts to come to terms with mortality. This volume is as loose as the sequence of 12 poems from which comes the book's title‘a wild ride that includes quotes, parenthetical fragments, monetary charts and wonderful poetic snapshots of Hillman's native Brazil (where her father worked in the sugar industry) as well as descriptions of her current life ("sometimes the outline of my husband's ear in the half dark/ looks like Brazil"). The poems are concerned with the connection between immediacy and history, body and soul, thought and feeling. But sustained poetic argument is not Hillman's focus here. Conceit and idea fade before sensuous descriptions of men and women whose "hands were sleek/ with asking sleek with asking," of schoolboys with "those long intramural after/ the library type fingers/ they would later put in you," and of girls standing "in long paisley dresses, coyote cries/ coming through them, something frightened and/ being canceled." In many ways, the collection lives up to its title: its attention is scattered, and so are its many pleasures. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

In the poem that gives title to this collection, sugar‘precious, warm, quickly used up, and easily lost‘is a metaphor for time. Sugar was the rare commodity that brought borrowers to the door of Hillman's barely remembered childhood home in Brazil: "Later‘the rest of my life‘time resembles warm sugar, something almost imaginary having to do with asking." Underlined by the book's section titles‘"space/time," "time/alchemy," "problem/ time," and so on‘is the telescoping conceit of time, deceivingly abundant in personal recollections of adolescent sexuality in Southwestern U.S. suburbia, or impossibly scarce in the present complexities of family and work: "sex grows rather dim sometimes/ doesn't it but it comes back." The experimental nature of much of these poems‘seeming to emerge from the compulsion to "stop making sense" in the traditional fashion‘takes the writer into the margins of her page with poetic counterpoint in fine print, parentheses enclosing blank spaces, mind-bending quotes from Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time, and other departures from linear narrative. And although some readers may tire of the ride, many will nevertheless be attracted to this West Coast poet, whose humor and irony never fail to shine through.‘Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.